South Florida Leaders Critical of New Transgender Bathroom Guidance

Transgender students lost federal protections that allowed them to use school bathrooms matching their gender identities under new guidelines from the Trump administration, but South Florida officials said they don't expect any changes in local policy.

The Trump administration came down on the side of states' rights, lifting Obama-era federal guidelines Wednesday. Without the Obama directive, it will be up to states and school districts to interpret federal anti-discrimination law and determine whether students should have access to restrooms in accordance with their expressed gender identity and not just their biological sex.

Shortly after the announcement, Miami-Dade County Public Schools released a statement saying nothing will change for them.

"Miami-Dade has an anti-discrimination policy that is firmly in place, and our schools have been working with students on a case-by-case basis for many years, so it is unlikely that any type of impact would be experienced from any changes announced at the federal level," the statement said.

Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho followed up with a series of tweets addressing the issue.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Thursday released a statement saying the county will continue to stand for LGBT rights in the community.

"We are an inclusive community, and have policies in place to protect our LGBT residents. Despite changes at the federal level, we are confident that transgender-protection policies passed by the Board of County Commissioners in 2014 will remain in place in Miami-Dade County," his statement read.

Broward County School officials said the announcement will have no impact on the operation of their schools.

"There is nothing in what the feds did that precludes us from doing what we know are the right things to do for our students in Broward County," superintendent Robert Runcie said.

South Florida LGBT activist and YouTube personality Jazz Jennings said the decision is a step back for equality.

"I know that growing up I had it really hard because I wasn't allowed to use the girl's restroom," she said. "I faced discrimination at such an early age and I didn't understand why I was being treated differently."

South Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is the mother of a transgender child, spoke out against the changes.

"This lamentable decision can lead to hostile treatment of transgender students and studies have shown that bullying and harassment can be detrimental to the emotional and physical well-being of teenagers," she said in a statement.

Her son, Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, told NBC 6 he worries the move discourages those struggling with gender identity.

"[It] really sends a message from the White House that the federal government doesn't have your back if you happen to be transgender," Heng-Lehtinen said.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo also criticized the guidelines.

"This is a disappointing choice for the Administration to make. We should be working toward ensuring all American children feel safe and accepted in their schools, regardless of where they live, their race, creed, gender identity or sexual orientation," he said.

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